Lady Toppers notch first C-USA post-season win, look next to Old Dominion

WKU’s senior forward Chastity Gooch (30) gets penned in and draws a foul from Charlotte’s guard Hillary Sigmon (22) during the Hilltopper’s 70-67 win over Charlotte in the second round of the Conference USA tournament Thursday, March 12, 2015, at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala. Gooch notched 19 points in the game. The Lady Toppers advance to take on Old Dominion in the semifinal game at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, 2015. Mike Clark/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Topper basketball team grinded out a 70-67 win over Charlotte in the second round of the Conference USA tournament on Thursday.

Alexis Govan had a game-high 21 points off of 9-of-15 shooting from the field, adding a team-high seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists in 29 minutes of play.

“It was great to be back out there and get a chance to be a part of this on the floor with my teammates,” Govan said, who missed last year’s conference tournament with a fractured tibia.

The Lady Toppers came into the contest coming off a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed.  While Charlotte did not have the luxury of a first round bye, they never let the game slip out of reach.

The Lady Toppers held a 16-point lead at the 9:41 mark in the second half which was completely erased by Charlotte when they tied the game at 65 with 2:20 to play in the game.

With the score tied at 65, freshman Tashia Brown made a block on Charlotte’s Ayana Holmes which spurred a Chastity Gooch-Micah Jones fast break to give the Lady Toppers the lead with 1:21 to play.

“They made a heck of a block on our layup,” Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra said. “I thought we were going to score that, but their kid came out of nowhere. But in basketball, sometimes it comes down to one play.”

After a missed three-pointer from Charlotte’s Hillary Sigmon, T. Brown hit a jumper to extend the lead to four.

“Big time. She’s going to be big time,” Clark-Heard said of Tashia Brown. “And I think that’s a lot of credit to these young ladies who have helped her be confident in what she does. The reason why the freshmen are doing well, the seniors are their biggest cheerleaders and they really help them with confidence.”

The 49ers would notch two more points from the free-throw line but not score from the field again. Other than these two free throws with 13 seconds left, the Lady Toppers held the 49ers scoreless for the last 2:20 of the game, notching five points in that time span.

“We found a way to win. This time of the year is surviving and advance, and that’s what we did today,” Michelle Clark-Heard said. “Proud of our team that we never faltered and even though they made as many runs as they did, we continued to keep trying to do the things we needed to. Stepped up and made some big free throws and got some stops when we needed it.”

Behind Govan in the scoring column was fellow senior Chastity Gooch with 19 points off of 7-for-9 shooting from the field, 4-for-4 from the free throw line, four assists, three blocks, and one steal.

Kendall Noble showed again her versatility—putting up nine points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and two steals.

The Lady Toppers will forge on in the C-USA tournament Friday in a semi-final clash with No. 5 Old Dominion.

Old Dominion enters the contest coming off an upset over No. 4 UTSA 63-49, where Lady Monarch forward Jennie Simms netted a game-high 27 points off of 10-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists. 

Defensively, the Lady Toppers will look keep the pressure on the Lady Monarchs, as Old Dominion gave up 20 turnovers in its win over UTSA, and the WKU forced 15 Charlotte turnovers in their win on Thursday. 

With a win, the Lady Toppers would reach the finals of the conference tournament two years in a row, winning last year’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 61-60 win over Arkansas State. 

Lady Topper versus Old Dominion tipoff is set for 12:30 on Friday, March 13.